Friday, August 01, 2008

Technical Difficulties.

Last night I had a bit of a surprise when I checked my e-mail. There was a message from the folks at with a prominent header- it cited my URL and warned that there was "ACTION REQUIRED". When I opened it I was informed that Serendipity had been tagged as a "potential spam blog". I was instructed to respond by requesting a review, and cautioned that if I didn't do so my blog would be deleted in twenty days. Obviously this got my attention. After more than two years of continuous blogging, I would be devastated to learn that it was gone forever. My father has started cataloging my posts on paper, but he is still at the beginning stage of the process. I couldn't ask him to finish the job in the next two and a half weeks.

A lot of scenarios ran through my mind. When I first opened the e-mail, it occurred to me that it might be some type of Internet scam. You have to be on guard whenever a message tells you that there is "ACTION REQUIRED". Maybe there is some sort of problem with your credit card, and they need your social security number and bank account information. Perhaps they forgot what your password is and need a simple refresher. Variations on this theme are virtually endless. I was told that I could get the necessary review by "filling out a form" at a prescribed link. I was leery about even clicking on it. What if I got some kind of virus? Truly my "Spidey-sense" was tingling.

It didn't take me long to realize that this problem was on the level. For one thing, it was a page from the official Blogger site. I have to give these guys credit for breaking down everything into easily digested particles. Quickly I was brought up to speed regarding Blogger's commitment to eliminate spam. Apparently they search for this annoyingly intrusive data distribution technique with something called an "automated classifier". In their own words, "Automatic spam detection is inherently fuzzy." The assumption is that if their "ACTION REQUIRED" message is responded to, then they have likely made a "false positive". They were quick to point out that they "sincerely apologize for this error".

My first thoughts were that this would be a tremendous inconvenience (if not a tragedy should they decide to erase my blog). If you are a regular reader, you are no doubt aware that I attempt to post every single day, and that I rarely miss a post. I was preparing to skip (at least) the entire weekend, because they said that it would take two business days to conduct their review. I vainly wondered how that would decrease my traffic. Yet I must admit that at some level I felt like it would be a reprieve from having to get something written for this weekend. It turned out (obviously) that this wouldn't be an issue. My blog privileges were restored approximately 14 hours after my request for a review.

I also have to admit that I suspected personal sabotage. For a moment I thought that someone had attempted to do me in. I guess that sort of paranoia is just typical of the age we live in. When I noticed that I couldn't post to the Digging Pitt blog, I suspected a coordinated effort to undermine the local arts scene. But with the assistance of an e-mail from Susan over at oranje, I determined that a lot of blogs were affected at the same time by Blogger's overzealous robots. Anyway, Sus told me that the online community is furious about it, and considering jumping ship. I still don't understand exactly why it happened to me (perhaps it's because my recent posts contain a lot of links to other sites), but I've invested too much to change to a different service. So Blogger-dudes, I hope you know that you're stuck with me.

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